Best Practices: The History of Rescue

Today we’re looking for input on the origins of rescue. The origins of the animal welfare movement are well-documented in books and on websites, but we have struggled to find information on the origin and growth of private rescue organizations. We believe that founding and running private animal rescue organizations is a fairly new phenomenon, but we have yet to find hard data. Please share your thoughts and experience.

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21 Responses to Best Practices: The History of Rescue

  1. You could try to interview others at the actual private rescues and ask how they got started.

  2. Thanks for your suggestion, Sarah. We’ve got 21 rescue partners helping with this book, and I hope they’ll also be commenting on this topic shortly. I’m hoping that someone might have some research references for me, as I haven’t been able to find anything that specifically discusses the origins of rescue organizations.

  3. When we started NBCR 11 years ago there were very few rescues in our area. There was a Doberman Rescue started by Alice Erftmier and Golden Retriever Rescue in Nebraska started by Sharon White, among others. I do believe the internet is responsible for the growth of rescue

  4. My history with rescue only goes back to 2003, officially. But prior to my personal experiences, I knew of rescues for Greyhounds. Being a dog that is often bred for sport (racing), obviously that brought much attention to the breed and an obvious need for the rescue of these animals after their racing careers ended. As with any industry, Greyhound racing has it’s share of problems, but it’s amplified due to the fact that this particular industry dealt with living creatures who deserved better than what the industry provided if they did not make money for the industry itself. Many Greyhounds were destroyed for not performing well, and, as with any other industry, there’s always going to be some bad eggs. Never underestimate the greed of humans, and many animals have suffered in the name of dog racing. Someone, I don’t know who or when, stood up and said enough! And, I believe this was the beginning of “breed rescue” as we know it today. Groups of dedicated individuals that join efforts to save the breed they happen to be dedicated to. For me it’s boxers. I know the breed, and I know what it takes to responsibly place a boxer in a new home.

    I could never pretend to responsibly place other breeds, as I do not know their temperaments, behavioral quirks and health issues. With boxers, I do.

    Since my involvement with rescue began I have seen two things that stand out to me. The number of people getting involved and realizing the importance and need for animal rescue is rising, but sadly, so is the number of animals in need.

    LBR is involved with a group called “Rescue Friends” that runs monthly, half page ads to help educate John Q. Public about rescue, responsible pet ownership, etc. Annually, we poll about 20 N. Texas shelters for statistics. When we began, 5-6 years ago, approximately 8,000 animals were euthanized in these shelters monthly, today that number is over 10,000. However, the number of animals rescued and adopted from said shelters has also risen.

    To say we are fighting an uphill battle with irresponsible breeders and puppy mills is an understatement, and while it may take years to win the war (we won’t without stricter legislation on animal breeding), we win small battles, across the United States, daily.

  5. Emily Day says:

    The Alliston & District Humane Society was created in 1988 by a few concerned people who felt that there were not enough animal rescue opportunities in our geographical area. The majority of our founders were volunteers at a local OSPCA. Unfortunately, the amount of animals that walk in the doors of a shelter are usually more than the amount that walk out. Our facility strives to be no-kill – just as our founders designed it. We have functioned as such for the last 23 years and will continue to do so.

    We are an affiliate of the OSPCA but we are NOT a branch. We make our own decisions about the animals in our care; we govern our own money (we also have to fundraise our own money); and we run programs in our local community with the hopes of bettering the lives of the animals within.

    Does that answer this question? I hope so …

  6. I suggest reading Redemption by Nathan Winograd to get an idea about the history of animal control, ASPCA, all the way up through the current day no-kill movement. I’d suggest reading it anyway, but you may find some helpful things about rescue history there, too.

  7. I believe Sharon is correct in that Greyhound rescue was the first

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  9. Vicky Mazyn says:

    Several people I know in rescue actually started out as volunteers at shelters as caretakers or fosters. They didn’t agree with all of the politics and money wasting and started volunteering for rescues. Maybe the start of rescues just evolved from fostering at shelters. I do believe there is a more awareness of the plight of animals due to the internet but there is still a lot more to do.

  10. I was introduced to rescue efforts through local pet sitters. I was invited to a meeting hosted by an organization, that no longer exist, that raised funds to help rescues pay for spay and neuters. Sitting in just one meeting made me realize how big of a need rescue was especially since I was not aware myself. I started by helping out someone who was helping owner surrenders find new homes for their dog. We then made the organization official when we registered our name with the state, signed up with petfinder, started a website and eventually became 501c3.

  11. NCSR was started in 1999 as a resource for senior shelteis, as I found that many local rescues were not able to help the seniors. As the years went by, we began to also take in some younger dogs, although we are still known for helping shelties over age 7, and they are our priority. I began by first adopting a senior sheltie from another rescue. Upon learning the need for senior rescue, my husband and I formed our own rescue and our volunteers come from the ranks of our adopters; we share the same vision…rescue regardless of age.

  12. “The first breed specific rescue that I heard of was for greyhounds. At the time I volunteered in a no-kill shelter. I never heard any rescue group mentioned in the many years I volunteered there.
    Houston Beagle and Hound Rescue was founded by Sandra Kos eleven years ago. She was looking for something to occupy her time as she had decided to quit working. She had a beagle at the time and without much looking at all discovered there were a great many beagles out there that needed to be saved or would be euthanized. She started out by taking as many as she could into her home and then finding homes for them. She operated on her own for about five years adding help along the way. The 501C and incorporation occurred in 2003.

  13. Stephanie Rice says:

    It’s The Pits was officially founded in 2006 however the founder was involved with rescue long before. She started off volunteering for a local shelter and realized she was really good at finding forever homes for pit bulls. She then got involved with other local rescues and in 2006 It’s The Pits was incorporated and received it’s 501C3. Many people who I’ve met involved in rescue seemed to start off in the shelter environment and move to private rescue for a variety of reasons.

  14. I began fostering for a group from New England that found homes for Southern dogs. It was a total eye opener. I NEVER realized there were so many deserving dogs out there being left behind and being euthanized daily in some cases.
    After about 6 months and tons of Vet bills, the group decided to not take anymore mixed breeds and stick with Labs only. I made the decision then to start Dogs 2nd Chance for all the big MUTTS left behind. Locally there are groups that take small dogs, groups that are breed specific, but not many groups that wanted the big, goofy dogs.
    Since the fall of 2007, we have evolved from one person helping one dog at a time to having an average of 30 dogs being fostered in several homes.

  15. Great feedback, Sharon. I wonder if Greyhound rescues were the first… food for thought, for sure. As you said, the number of rescue organizations is rising, but is the need rising, or is the dire pet overpopulation problem just becoming more well-known? We are most certainly fighting an uphill battle. I was at an adoption event the other day where a guy with a “rescued” pit bull was running around trying to find a dog to breed with her. I couldn’t believe it.

  16. Thanks, Dallas. I’m going to order it. I found it on Amazon at

  17. A good thought, Vicky. Maybe it was the foster homes who decided to take it to the next level…

  18. Do you know of the new organization Grayson’s Cause that is being founded by some of the people who started Awareness Day? They’re working on raising funds to help with major medical procedures.

  19. Kyla Duffy says:

    This post was a great lead, Sharon. I just found a very informative document about Greyhound rescue history at

    I’ve also been reading For The Prevention of Cruelty by Diane L. Beers, which I highly recommend. This section is finally coming together. 🙂

  20. Terri says:

    I founded American Cocker Spaniel Rescue after adopting one of my own cocker spaniels from a local Humane Society in 2002. I had gone there several times in search of a cocker spaniel to help me through the transition when my elderly resident cocker would pass (he crossed The Bridge 6 months later). After meeting my new cocker, and deciding that I would like to adopt him, he was returned to his kennel while I completed the adoption paperwork. Due to miscommunication, or lack of, he was taken to the euthanization room, instead. He was 8 yrs. old, a “train-wreck” (peeing blood from a raging bladder infection, toenails grown into the pads of his feet, emaciated and hadn’t been groomed in a very long time — he was one, solid mat), the pound was full, more dogs were coming in, and his time was up. Thankfully, word got to the person doing the euthanizing, just minutes, maybe seconds, before he would have been killed. I had always known that literally millions of animals are killed in our country due to over population, but this made it very personal. It was no longer a number — I now had a face/best friend that almost became a statistic. Knowing just how close my best friend came to being killed, made me realize that by providing a temporary home for animals in need would be my first step in helping save their lives. I started by fostering for Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, helping with transports, and then eventually founded ACSR.

  21. Susan Kramer says:

    Happy Endings began due to the need – no where for folks to take unwanted pets, for whatever reason. County and local government animal control does not venture into that territory. This information will be so usefull. Where does one start? For many trial and error and we never stop learning!

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